Today we welcome retired Threads Executive Editor Judith Neukam to talk about the Threads Challenge, its origins, and the changes it has undergone over the last 20 years.
The 2019 Threads/Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP) design challenge has begun, and in response, sewing rooms all over the country are humming with new invention, sparked style, and brilliant skills. I was part of the first design challenge 20 years ago, and have a warm place in my heart for the efforts made since then to keep this event flourishing in the sewing community.
2009: Seam Challenge, Issue #148 Page 37,Monique Saviano’s hemstitched seams in an organza, chiffon, and brocade strapless dress won the Best Implied Seams and Audience Choice awards. Photos by Jack Deutsch.
Originally, the challenge was cosponsored by the fabric industry; the first challenge called for garments made of mohair. In those early days, designers sent their garments to the Threads offices, where they were judged and then returned to the designer to take to the ASDP’s annual fashion show. That first year, the magazine’s administrative assistant coordinated receiving the deliveries, unwrapping them, hanging them, and keeping all the related paperwork with the garment for preliminary and final judging. She was allergic to the mohair and had to limit her exposure to 15-minute periods—when unwrapping and then re-wrapping the entries.
2009: Seam Challenge, Issue #148 Page 36. Ruth Ciemnoczolowski's interlocking and topstitched seams in a felted wool jersey dress won the Unexpected Seam Award. Photos by Jack Deutsch
Each challenge has been conceived to offer the designers an opportunity to stretch their design and technical skills. We have covered numerous design areas, including creative seams, no-waste design, embellishment techniques, specialty fabrics such as lace, and iconic silhouettes—all cutting-edge topics within the fashion industry. Many designers have professional practices that don’t allow them to test their creativity regularly. We try to invent design problems they may not have faced before and encourage them to come up with original solutions and showstopping looks.
2003: Reversible garment, Issue #109, Pg. 86 Lena Stepanenko’s silk taffeta coat and cut-silk velvet dress combination won her the Most Surprising Transformation Award. Photos by Scott Phillips
We’ve learned lessons with each challenge ourselves. One example was the “Reversible Garment” challenge (2003), which required each garment to appear on the runway twice to display both sides. This doubled the length of the fashion show. The challenge authors learned how important it is that every facet of the challenge suits the entire production. Another instance of inadvertent problems arose with the first “Inspired by Art” challenge (2007), when we ran into copyright restrictions that prevented us from reproducing all the inspiration pieces in the magazine.
2011: No-Waste designs, Issue 160, Pg. 42 Joyce Hittesdorf’s two-piece mother of the bride or groom ensemble won the Best and Most Original Jacket Award. Photos by Jack Deutsch.
We have always used a judging formula followed by art shows. An important aspect of our judging is that it is done blind: The designers’ identities are never revealed to the judges until the winners have been selected. The first step is for each judge, including any guest judges, to categorize each entry as a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” Then the judges debate the maybes, keeping the yeses and nos isolated in their respective groups. Our goal is to move the maybes into one of the other categories. The final yes selections become the finalists. As we assess the garments, we pay attention to how well each entry satisfies the challenge brief and the contest requirements. This is when every little element is taken into consideration. We also read the artists’ statements, and the ASDP challenge coordinator verifies that the entry abides by the organization’s rules (including meeting all deadlines, providing the required photographs, and providing a title).
As the annual challenge became more popular and the demands on the Threads staff became overwhelming, we decided to do the first round of judging by photographs. This eliminated all the shipping, and gave the finalists more time to fine-tune their entries even after the first judging round. The final judging now is at the ASDP conference the morning of the fashion show. The only garments sent to Threads today are the winners, which are photographed on models by our fashion photographer in New York City. We love how this fashion shoot brings the pieces to life!
2011: No-Waste designs, Issue 160, Pg. 44 Debby Spence's layered dress with asymmetrical tucks won the award for Best Column Made from a Tube in the 2011 No-Waste Designs Challenge. Photos by Jack Deutsch
What’s in it for you, if you decide to take on the challenge? First, you declare your intention to create an original design, following the challenge brief that is issued immediately after the fashion show. You’ll deliver photographs of your finished garment by the stated deadline, for preliminary judging. You’ll also need to include an artist’s statement describing your design inspiration, the techniques used, and fabrics and embellishments. The process of preparing the garment and the entry documents can help designers learn how best to market their work, for greater professional success.
2013: Lace Challenge, Issue 166, Joi Mahon’s fur-infused lace bolero and full-skirted dress won the Audience Choice Award. Photo by Jack Deutsch.
Some of the designers enter almost every year. Over the years, they develop a deep collection of their own designs to show their style and talent. The entries also show the member’s growth in design and construction. If the garments are made in model sizes, they’re ideal for the designers to display in fashion or trunk shows. If they are made in the designer’s own size, they gets to wear the garment(s) themselves, and that’s a priceless bonus.
This challenge is always inspiring because it features the best work of professional seamstresses, tailoring experts, bridal designers, and custom clothiers. The winners are chosen for their application of cutting-edge and complex sewing techniques on a stunning garment that will make an inspiring magazine article. So, whether you compete or appreciate, following this challenge will benefit your work as a designer.
Recently, ASDP member Bonny Carmicino (New Jersey) was invited to be the keynote speaker at a local Mother's Day tea. Sewing runs deep in Bonny's soul and she knew from an incredibly young age that she wanted to grow up to be a sewing professional.
Listen to Bonny's story and her insights into nourishing creativity in herself and others.
One of the benefits of being a member of the ASDP is your ability to connect directly with other sewing professionals. If you have a product, service, or event that you would like to market to your colleagues, the monthly Member to Member E-Blast is the way to do that!
Once a month, members are welcomed to send in short ads for their products, services or classes that they would like to offer to other ASDP members. If you have an offer that you would like to share, please send it along with a relevant picture or your logo and your contact information to email@example.com
Submissions are due by the third Monday of each month. The e-blast will be sent to all members on the fourth Monday of the month.
If you would like your offer to be ongoing, you must re-submit each month that you would like your offer to appear in the E-blast.
Remember that this opportunity is only open to members of the ASDP.
To become a member so that you can take advantage of this and the many other fantastic member benefits, visit the Join page on the website.
Threads/ASDP Challenge 2019
The Transformation Challenge
Among the most popular exhibits at the Milwaukee Public Museum is the Puelicher Butterfly Wing, an indoor tropical garden, home to hundreds of living butterflies. A visit to this space is magical. Seeing these creatures at all stages of development, from caterpillar to chrysalis to full-fledged butterfly, reminds us that change is a constant in life.
Change can be positive or negative, exhilarating or frightening. For this challenge, Threads asks the members of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals to show us that change can be good. We challenge you to design a garment or ensemble that includes an element of transformation.
Your garment/ensemble must be able to be changed on the runway from one look to a distinctly different second look. You may incorporate removable pieces, but each piece that comes off must be integrated in some way into the alternate look. Consider reversible sewing techniques, changeable silhouettes, layered fabrics, or anything else that transforms the garment. We’ll judge the entries on excellence of construction and design, with a special focus on how successfully the ensemble changes from one look to another.
In your artist’s statement, describe in detail how your entry changes, and include photos of both views. Explain your inspiration, and let us know how your design process encouraged you to embrace change.
Dear ASDP Members,
I hope you’ve been thinking about this year’s challenge, and I’d like to encourage you to submit an entry (or two!). For the entire Threads staff, seeing your creative solutions to our challenge is an annual highlight. When we come up with a theme each year, we truly never have any idea what might come of it, and it’s always a wonderful surprise to discover how you solve the problem we pose.
This year’s challenge takes a slightly different form from the usual, because we ask you to design an ensemble or garment that can change. You can effect this transformation in any way you like as long as it can occur on the runway. Therefore, you’ll want to avoid anything that involves completely undressing. We suggest you keep the transformation process from being too complicated, as that will hold up the show and present your work in an awkward light. It’s probably a good idea to avoid things like stepping into/out of skinny pants, for example, or unfastening (or fastening) a long row of tiny buttons.
Please remember that, if a piece is removed from the first look, it must still be incorporated into the second look—no tossing a cape off the side of the runway to reveal a gown!
Coincidentally, as I started writing this letter, Project Runway All Stars presented a challenge that called for transforming garments (look online for All Stars Season 7, Episode 10, “Climate Quick Change”). Although it’s worth checking out what those designers came up with, I think you’ll quickly see that some did a better job than others of fulfilling the challenge. For example, Dmitry Sholokhov’s coat-over-dress look was less a transformation than simply two pieces. As I watched this episode, I was interested to see how some of the designers approached the brief. You may get some general ideas from them about what works and what doesn’t.
There are, of course, many ways to transform a look. You may try making reversible garments, or draw in or let out areas to adjust the silhouette. Can one piece turn into another?—an obvious example would be a skirt/cape combination, but there might be ways for pants to become a skirt. Sometimes adding a sheer layer creates a completely different look, in terms of color and shape. Consider notions such as zippers, hook-and-loop tape (aka Velcro), snap tape, or magnetic closures to attach or release garment sections quickly and easily.
It’s a matter of balancing ease of transformation with overall effect. I know you’ll come up with be some clever solutions that deliver interesting changes without too much fuss and flurry on the runway.
Please note that we didn’t include any restrictions on what sort of garments this should be, so you’re welcome to design anything, from active-wear to evening-wear to a fabulous fantasy costume.
We know that participating in the challenge is a significant investment in time and money. We don’t want you to think you must use rare and expensive materials, and we urge you to decide what budget works for you. Also, while some designers create pieces in model sizes, that is never a requirement for this challenge. (When we do our first round of judging, we don’t even know what size the entries are.) So if you are putting time into designing and constructing something amazing that you love, feel free to make it to fit yourself! If, on the other hand, you’d like to go wild and try something you’d never wear in your real life, that’s fine, too. Our hope is that you’ll learn some new aspects of design and sewing along the way, and possibly end up with a new outfit you can proudly wear.
I’ll be working on my “Mary Poppins/Mrs. Incredible” outfit till October. (I’m only joking, but now I’m wondering if that would even be possible!)
ThreadsSenior Technical Editor
Today we welcome Linda Macke, Director for the MSDP Board, as a guest writer. Linda is here to tell us how the MSDP certification program came into being and why it is a valuable addition to the sewing and design industry.
The Master Sewing and Design Professional (MSDP) Certification Program has become an important part of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP) but it has not always been so. Back in 1990 when ASDP (then called the Professional Association of Custom Clothiers (PACC)) was created, it was only a whisper of a dream for many members of our organization.
During the beginning years of the national organization, Catherine Stephenson, a national board member at that time, began to research how to establish a national certification program for PACC members that would validate their professional skills.
As a result of her research, the board decided to take the first step of establishing a set of Standards of Quality for Custom Clothing that would become an important benefit for members. The process of writing the Standards took two years of research conducted by a committee of six professionals from the founding Oregon Chapter, chaired by Catherine. An opportunity to participate in the review process was made available to all members, and with the addition of educational advisers, a total of 27 professionals were involved in the writing of the Standards. In 1997, the PACC national board adopted the Standards as a benefit to our members and eventually to the general public.
Around 2005 ,the idea of a national certification program was brought before PACC’s executive board. At that time, President Sally Silvers asked Linda Stewart to take over the project and see that a master certification program be established. She researched the past attempts to establish the program and found the following “bumps” that seemed to be stumbling blocks.
Certification cannot be done internally; an outside group would have to perform the evaluations.
Should Certification be mandatory?
It was determined that certification should be encouraged but not be made mandatory. Education via conference classes and eventually on-line classes would be made available to all to encourage members to increase their skill level and prepare them for certification, if that be their goal.
What subjects would be covered in certification?
Later, Linda Stewart asked Catherine Stephenson to begin writing the curriculum for each of the modules. The already developed Standards for Quality was used as the basis for the curriculum and testing. Having this document was a huge leap forward for the MSDP program. Catherine then formed committees of various other educators such as Clair Shaeffer, Rhonda Cheney, Mirjana Freilich, Leslie Littell, as well as others to help write the curriculum for each of the modules. From this curriculum, tests were written for each module.
Around this time PACC changed its name to the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP) to better reflect the members of the organization. Linda Stewart was the main force in getting MSDP off the ground. She dealt with all of the everyday requirements to get the program launched in October 2008.
In April, 2009 a national board was formed and Catherine Stephenson was elected to be the Chair, along with Marjana Freilich, Susan Khalje, Kenneth King, Kathleen Rowold, and Janie Stidham.
In October 2009, Linda Macke took over the day to day running of the program. MSDP was officially incorporated in the State of Illinois as the Master Sewing and Design Professional Certification Program in October 2012. By March 2013 we were managing our own finances, work which was formerly done by the ASDP Treasurer. We continue to be part of ASDP’s group exemption for the IRS and use ASDP’s website for promoting the program. In September 2013 Linda launched the Master Alteration Specialist (MAS) Certification Program, and later launched a Grandfather program for both MSDP and MAS.
In October 2014, the ASDP Board decided to remove the board position of VP of Certification Programs and instead have a representative from MSDP report monthly to the VP of Education to continue clear lines of communication between these two groups. The person managing the day to day operations of MSDP was then given the title of MSDP Director of Operations. This position is currently held by Vandarra Robbins. The separation of MSDP from ASDP was part of the original vision, that MSDP would become its own entity under the umbrella of ASDP.
MSDP actively promotes membership in ASDP to people inquiring into our program and encourages our participants to be active members of the Association. The MSDP Board of Directors has been entrusted with the responsibility to maintain and improve upon the legacy we have been given—to provide the opportunity for those in the sewing industry to be certified, should that be their desire. We are grateful to all the sewing professionals who generously gave their time and talent to create this program and hope to honor them by making sure that the MSDP Certification Program stays viable and meaningful long into the future.
We are pleased to announce our keynote speaker for the 2019 ASDP conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Please join us in October as we welcome
Miranda Levy's story begins in the tiny town of Wilton, Wisconsin where she was the daughter of an Army soldier and the oldest of three children. Following in her father's footsteps, her work was defined by the eight years she spent in the U.S. Army as a construction equipment mechanic, a path she chose due to their reluctance to hire a woman for the position. After active duty, Levy returned to Wisconsin to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she earned a BFA in Fibers.
Levy’s early work explores her own experiences in the military, questions the effects that camouflage has when applied to the human form, and investigates the role that the uniform plays. Levy’s uniform-like designs have been the highlight of several fashion shows including Run Up to the Runway at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Return to the Runway, and Contemporary Threads.Her designs have been featured in several editorials including M magazine, INFO magazine, Marie Claire, and Country Woman magazine. In 2013, Levy was featured as a contestant for television's Lifetime Series, Project Runway, season 12, an experience that has launched her career to higher levels.
While design ultimately plays a leading role in Levy’s life, she is most thankful for the opportunity to teach and share what she learns with others. Her husband jokingly refers to her as the world's youngest grandmother which she holds as her highest compliment. Thankfully, Levy’s career has allowed her the opportunity to mentor and teach students at the Milwaukee Public School’s Bay View High School, Art Institute of Wisconsin, The Jewish Museum, Vogue Fabrics, and the Museum of Wisconsin Art.
With her life as the mother of a four year old as new inspiration, Miranda joined the Florence Eiseman family in 2018 and is excited to share her creative ideas as part of the iconic children’s clothing company. As a Purchasing and Production Manager, Miranda is building relationships with textile professionals around the world and gaining first hand experience walking a design from the child-size dress form to the retailer’s shelves.
On Monday January 21st, the sewing industry lost a teacher who is remembered fondly by her students. Although not an ASDP member, she has touched our community through our members who took her classes over the years.
It is with great sadness that we share with you the passing of our dear friend and teacher, Cynthia Guffey, on Monday night. She had throat cancer. She did not seek, nor did she accept medical intervention, and so passed much the way she lived – in charge of her decisions, following her heart. Even when Cynthia sent a note last week canceling her appearance at both the Atlanta and Lakeland, FL, Expos, she did not let on how seriously ill she was. She was a very private person.
Cynthia was a founding member of our Expo family, having been at the very first event, missing an event only when her husband, Wayne, and then her mother passed. Her clever wit, generosity of spirit, intellectual curiosity and uncanny ability to communicate complex ideas simply and clearly will be missed by her thousands of students, her friends at the Expo and by each of us. Her impact cannot be overstated, and we will miss her more than words can express.
Her service will be held on Friday, January 25th at New Life Baptist Church at 11:00 AM at 34 Sunrise Place, Hayesville, NC 28904. Friends are welcome at 10:00 AM to greet her family. Flowers may be ordered from Rachel Payne Florist 828-389-0204. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to New Life Baptist Church, P.O. Box 742, Hayesville, NC 28904.
Her presence will be so deeply missed, but what a legacy of excellence she has left to us. Let us honor her memory with that same commitment to excellence.
As you prepare to close out 2018 and welcome the new year, what are you thinking about? Are you setting goals, writing resolutions, or looking back on your year? What do you want your business to look like in 2019? Will you increase your sales? Add to your professional knowledge? Diversify your offerings? How will you go about accomplishing these things?
Goals aren't going to meet themselves and like the successful entrepreneur you are, you know you'll need a game-plan. ASDP member Terri Martin recently shared this fascinating article that she came across from American author and entrepreneur, James Clear. This article from https://jamesclear.com/measure-backward challenges us to think about how we assess our progress in all areas of our life, business and personal, in a new way.
Joining the ASDP or renewing your membership is a great way to jump-start your business development in the new year. Participate in the online discuss list to network with your colleagues to problem solve, test ideas, or find new vendors.
Plan to attend local chapter meetings and the national education conference to grow your practical skills and business knowledge.
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or LinkedIn for advice, reviews, and to stay connected to your colleagues across the world.
The goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to have the search engines find your site and hopefully rank your page(s) relevance so that it appears at the top of the search engine results. This is not a one-time process; it requires cycles of testing, tweaking, monitoring, and maintenance. Outlined below is a broad five-step process to develop your own strategy for SEO.
A good place to start is keyword research. You may be familiar with industry jargon, but the general public may use different terms. If you’re a custom bridal designer, you may not call yourself a seamstress, but that may be the word that potential customers are using to search for your services. Keyword research provides an understanding of the words (and phrases) that consumers use in search queries.
Start your list with what you would type in a search to find your business; then ask your customers. Add to your list plurals, phrases, and potential misspellings. Rank each keyword or phrase with high, mid or low priority.
Google Keyword Planner is a free tool.
Using some of your keywords, examine the first 5-10 results in Google listings. Are they using keywords that you hadn’t thought of? Look at how they are similar or dissimilar to your web page.
The first step of planning is knowing where you stand. Having a benchmark of current statics gives you a way to assess if you are making progress. Web search ranking on targeted keywords, website traffic, and conversion rate are a basic way to start.
Using your baselines, develop goals for improving. For more about goal setting check out SMART(blog link). Clearly define your objectives before you start making changes. Being able to measure the ROI of your efforts will help you decide the best place to invest your time.
With a better understanding of what keywords consumers use to find your products or services; identify the pages on your website to optimize for those keywords. Each high priority keyword or phrase should have a page to correspond to that search query.
Beginning weekly, analyze search rankings and web traffic to determine the effect of changes you’ve implemented. Keep track of measurements in an Excel spreadsheet or use this template(link).
Take some time to gain a basic understanding of whichever web analytic tool you have decided to use. Google Analytics has a library of articles and guides to help you use the tool.
Continuing to add and modify keywords and website content is necessary to keep improving search rankings.
Check out these other free beginner SEO guides:
Google’s "Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide"
Occasionally we like to use this space to help you get to know the ASDP membership a little better. With the speed of business, technology, and life ever increasing, it can leave us feeling a certain disconnect from our communities and our peers. One of the most fantastic benefits of being a member of the ASDP is that it connects sewing professionals to one another when we are often sole-proprietors going it along.
This month, we'd like to introduce you to new member, Abby Stroot. Abby is the superb owner of Pincushion, A Sewing Shop, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
My name is Abby Stroot and I grew up in Andover, Kansas where I started sewing in middle school as a part of our local 4-H group. I am a third generation seamstress; both of my grandmothers made beautiful quilts and my mother made every school formal dress and Halloween costume I could come up with. After middle school, I got very involved in my high school theatre program. Throughout my high school years I volunteered with the Music Theatre of Wichita, working in various departments of the theatre. It wasn’t until college that I became more involved in costuming. I graduated from Wichita State University with my Bachelors in Theatre and during my time there I worked as a stitcher for the theatre costume shop. During the summer, I worked as Head of Wardrobe for the same theatre that I had initially volunteered for. As a member of Wardrobe, I spent most of my time working backstage during performances and some of the time working on alterations in the Costume Shop. After college, I worked for a touring production for awhile and eventually landed in Las Vegas.
When I first moved to Las Vegas, I didn’t really know anyone so I got involved in the community theatres as a way to meet people. In my first year in Vegas, I costume designed for over 10 productions across various theatres. Along with my volunteer designing for the theatres, I started working for Cirque du Soleil as a Wardrobe Attendant. I had been working for Cirque for 5 years when I decided to take the huge step of opening my own sewing shop.
The great thing about Vegas is that the artistic energy is everywhere and there are so many work opportunities within the city. I found myself and several of my friends working on various freelance gigs across the city. The only problem was that we were all trying to make masterpieces out of our tiny living spaces. There are so many stories of people turning their kitchen floors into a cutting space or trying to make a costume on their small dining table. This is where the idea for Pincushion sprang from. I felt that the city needed a space for people to make their masterpieces and not feel cramped. Office co-working spaces are such a huge industry right now, so why couldn’t we have an artistic co-working space? I wanted Pincushion to be a comfortable shop where people could come in and have the space to work on their own projects or to learn something new in a casual atmosphere.
Right now, Pincushion offers all things sewing. We do alterations, make custom orders, and offer sewing classes ranging from basics to advanced techniques. We also offer a rentable sewing work space, and we offer consignment retail for local artisans. We are in the heart of the Arts District in Las Vegas and we couldn’t be in a more perfect spot. The local businesses in the Arts District are incredibly supportive and everyone is very excited to help each other out. The Arts District is growing more and more every day and we look forward to what opportunities that means for Pincushion.
I’m really looking forward to the learning opportunities through ASDP, whether it’s at conference or through other member offers. Everyone has different tips and tricks to how they do things and I’m always interested in ways to improve my existing skills.
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